By Peter Boylan, Star-Advertiser, 20 March 2023
County lawmakers are urging the city to create the long-planned Waianae patrol district by finishing a half-built police substation and paying recruiting bonuses to officers who help fill uniformed vacancies that numbered 374 as of March 5.
The Honolulu City Council unanimously approved a resolution Wednesday introduced by Council member Andria Tupola that asks the leadership of the Honolulu Police Department to provide a plan for the new Waianae patrol district by 2024, including the installation of a live-scan fingerprint process machine to process arrestees in Waianae.
The resolution calls for the assignment of at least one detective to Waianae, and the exploration of incentives tied to recruitment.
Tupola’s Council district encompasses police patrol District 8, which covers Ewa, Ewa Beach, Westloch, Barbers Point, Kapolei, Makakilo, Campbell Industrial Park, Honokai Hale, Koolina, Nanakuli, Maili, Waianae, Makaha, Makua and Kaena.
Twenty-one officers are responsible for patrolling the entire area.
There are 1,803 uniformed officers out of 2,177 approved positions and 205 civilian staff vacancies. Sixty-eight officers retired in 2022, and as of March 5, 13 departed to other law enforcement agencies since January 2022. As of Feb. 1, 193 HPD officers are eligible to retire.
“The highest volume of calls comes from the Waianae beats,” said Tupola. “They cannot commit to creating a District 9 because they don’t have the manpower to do so. How do you build out a District 9? You address the manpower issue.”
The department’s 374 vacancies include leadership openings in District 8, which is short two captains who are currently assigned to other divisions. District 8 also needs five lieutenants, five sergeants, one corporal and 35 metropolitan police officers.
“We absolutely agree that Waianae Police District 9 is needed. At the same time, it is critical that we have enough officers to staff it appropriately,” State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers President Robert Cavaco told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in a statement. “This is why SHOPO is working collaboratively with police administration and the City on strategies to attract new officers to HPD while retaining our experienced officers.”
Tupola’s resolution acknowledges that HPD is working to recruit officers but notes the $18 million in budgeted funds returned in 2022 that could be used to pay incentives tied to the recruitment and retention of new officers.
The Council would like to see the department consult with SHOPO to create incentive programs with “stipulations and timelines, such as a $500 new recruitment referral incentive, a one-time $1,500 housing stipend for new recruits, a $250 one-year monthly retention incentive for those approaching retirement who choose to continue working,” as well as any other incentive programs that the HPD believes will benefit or improve its recruitment and retention rates, reads the resolution approved by the Council.
HPD’s Waianae Substation — a 25,172-square-foot, two-story structure dedicated on May 20, 2016, at a cost of $16 million — is a state-of-the-art facility that still needs millions to complete.
Save for an operational weight room, the second floor of the structure is a group of unfinished concrete rooms with building supplies piled up in the corners. The first floor houses an officer or two and a zone detective who is handling an average of two new cases a day. In the afternoons the District 8 major whose office is in Kapolei works out of small, shared office.
“It’s like an empty shell — no flooring, no ceiling, no air con, cement and windows,” said Tupola in an interview with the Star-Advertiser.
Nearly 12 years ago, on June 13, 2011, the city Department of Planning and Permitting communicated to the City Council that the Special Management Area Use Permit application for the redevelopment of the Waianae police substation “was, at least in part, for purposes of rendering the Waianae Substation capable of serving as a district-level police station for a new Waianae Patrol District nine,” according to Tupola’s resolution.
Four years after that, in August 2015, the HPD major in charge of District 8 articulated the need for a Waianae patrol district, and the City Council passed a resolution asking HPD for specifics including staffing levels and how long it would take to set up.
Council Committee on Public Safety Chair Val Okimoto told the Star- Advertiser in a statement that she recently conducted a site visit at the Waianae substation.
“It is partially empty, but contains sufficient space in the event HPD creates a new patrol district. Officers assigned to the Leeward Coast utilize the station for report writing and other police responsibilities. The biggest challenge to opening the station is HPD’s current staffing shortage,” said Okimoto. “There is strong support for this from members of the community, as well as area legislators.”
The population of Tupola’s Council district has increased 20%, and the other City Council district included in HPD’s patrol area grew by 10% over the past 10 years, according to the latest U.S. Census report.
“We’re definitely working harder with less. We’re not only responding to regular 911 calls; we also respond with EMS, fire. … We are responding to a wide variety of cases … including a lot of people struggling with mental illness,” District 8 Maj. Gail Beckley told the Star- Advertiser in an interview. “When I listen to the calls we get out here (in Waianae), a lot of it has to do with the mentally ill. … The homeless individuals who are trespassing on people’s property … that’s a large chunk. … The businesses suffer from that.”
Tupola and the community she represents are concerned that every time officers are called to multiple events in Waianae at one time that result in arrest, it pulls them off their beats and takes them back to the main Kapolei police station to process adult offenders and write up reports.
“Over time as our population has grown … there is always going to be the geographic difficulty of processing someone … driving to Kapolei, processing the arrestee,” said Tupola. With a new district, “we would actually have our officers be able to stay in their beats and respond to calls.”
In all of District 8, auto thefts, burglaries, assaults and rapes increased from 2020 to 2021.
From Jan. 1 to March 12, 2022, there were 108 violent crimes — homicides, assaults, sex assaults and robberies — in District 8, according to police. For the same period this year, that number dropped to 80 violent crimes.
From Jan. 1 to March 12, 2022, there were 326 property crimes — burglaries, vehicle break-ins and vehicle thefts — according to police. For the same period this year, there have been 167 property crimes.
Mark Thompson, assistant chief of HPD’s Regional Patrol Bureau, which includes District 8, told the Star- Advertiser in an interview that the patrol district comprises 23 beats, and a minimum of 18 officers are required on the road at any time.
District 8 is divided into four patrol sectors. Kaena Point to Maili Road is Sector 1. Sector 2 is the Maili and Nanakuli areas up to the Waimanalo Gulch. Sector 3 includes Makakilo, Campbell Industrial Park and Barbers Point. Sector 4 is the Kapili area by old Ewa.
In addition to the 18 officers on the street, three officers staff the Waianae station, Kapolei station and Kapolei receiving desk. Officers from other districts are always available to help, and officers are not restricted to their assigned sectors.
“On any given day in D-8, there are going to be 21 officers (on duty),” Thompson said. “Everybody is covering each other’s back. There is never going to be a time where we are on skeleton (crew) and nobody is available. Somebody is always going to be available.”
It would take a minimum of 130 and, ideally, 150 uniformed officers and civilian support staff to stand up a new patrol district, Thompson said. A new district would need a major, a captain, detectives and civilian support staff.
A stand-alone District 9 would be two different patrol sectors with six beats in each for a total of 12.
“It would be really, really hard to be short (374 officers departmentwide) and try to ask for those 130 positions from everybody else,” Thompson said. “The Police Department is fighting for the same people all of these other businesses (in Honolulu) are fighting for.”